Word Reading and Spelling Ability in School-Age Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence From Brazilian Portuguese

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We examined word literacy skills in 19 Portuguese-speaking individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Brazil (M = 11 years and 5 months; SD = 3.9). A group of 19 typically developing (TD) children, matched with the ASD participants for word reading ability, participated as controls. Four components of word literacy were assessed: word reading accuracy, phonological decoding (pseudoword reading accuracy), word spelling accuracy, and word reading comprehension. Reading comprehension lagged considerably behind word reading ability in the group with ASD. On the other hand, although the participants with ASD tended to present a larger number of phonological errors on the word reading and word spelling tests than the TD children, the 2 groups did not differ significantly with regard to the number of correct responses on either one of these tests or the pseudoword reading test. In addition, word reading and spelling abilities were as (or even more) strongly correlated with phonological decoding in the group with ASD as in the TD group. These results suggest that, similar to what seems to be the case in typical literacy development, word reading and spelling ability in ASD rests fundamentally on the ability to learn to read by processing and remembering letter-sound relations in words.

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